Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Mom Knows Best: Network Neutrality

When your mother leaves you a message, in the same tone that she leaves you a message to remember to buy sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection, that you might want to keep your eye on legislation challenging network neutrality and to go to savetheinternet.com and publicknowledge.com, you know it's serious.

So for those of you whose mother did not call you this morning, here's the scoop. As Alexandra Samuels wrote today:

Network neutrality means that no matter who you pay for Internet service -- whether it's a phone, cable, or other telco -- no matter which web sites you access, and no matter what content you're looking for, your Internet service provider (ISP) will treat that content the same.

and as Talking Points Memo wrote yesterday:

the change could make it much harder to access TPM or any source of news or entertainment that isn't owned by some big corporation or, more likely, have the inside track with one of the phone companies. If you're cool with AT&T deciding the sources of use you can access then you probably won't mind. But if you like making those decisions yourself, you may want to speak up.

And what could that mean on a day-to-day level? Freepress.net's email campaign suggests:

Google users -- Another search engine could pay AT&T to guarantee that it opens faster than Google on your computer.

iPod listeners -- Comcast could slow access to iTunes, steering you to a higher-priced music service that paid for the privilege.

Work-at-home parents -- Connecting to your office could take longer if you don't purchase your carrier's preferred applications. Sending family photos and videos could slow to a crawl.

Retirees -- Web pages you always use for online banking, access to health care information, planning a trip or communicating with friends and family could fall victim to Verizon's pay-for-speed schemes.

Bloggers -- Costs will skyrocket to post and share video and audio clips -- silencing citizen journalists and amplifying the mainstream media.

Online activists -- Political organizing could be slowed by the handful of dominant Internet providers who ask advocacy groups to pay a fee to join the "fast lane."

Small businesses -- When AT&T favors their own services, you won't be able to choose more affordable providers for online video, teleconferencing, and Internet phone calls.

Innovators with the "next big idea" -- Startups and entrepreneurs will be muscled out of the marketplace by big corporations that pay for a top spot on the Web.

So what should you do? Well, MoveOn.org and Save the Internet have petitions going, and you should give your Congressperson a ring, especially if they are a member of the House Commerce Committee. Save the Internet has a nifty map up that tracks votes on network neutrality by House Energy & Commerce Committee members and provides a phone number for each Commerce Committee Representative.

You know I'm signing a petition and calling my Congressperson; otherwise, what am I going to tell my mother?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:57 AM

    Thanks for the alert about Network Neutrality, Britt. And thanks especially for the link to the info on how our reps stand on this important issue. I've forwarded your post to all of my colleagues and more than a few friends.

    At PolicyLink, one of our big areas of focus is Community Technology--with an eye to how low income communities and their community groups/advocates can make use of technology to ensure more equitable distribution of income and opportunities. You can imagine how a change in network neutrality will affect that!

    What is particularly interesting, I think, is the intersection of this assault on equality of accessibility with the highly visible debate about Chinese access censorship. If I were a consipiracy theorist, I'd be inclined to imagine it was some kind of diversified strategy to choke off information exchange. Good thing I'm not much of a conspiracy-monger!


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